If you’ve even tried juggling balls, you know how difficult it is to keep more than a few in the air. Sometimes life gets like that, and as we watch one ball after another fall to the ground, it’s just too tempting to throw them all up in the air and walk away.
How many of you are trying to raise kids, look after aging parents, rise to the challenges at work, keep friends and colleagues happy, do the groceries and fix dinner, take the dog for walk, make sure the laundry’s done and the kids are fed, and the list goes on and on and on.
And how many of you get overwhelmed by it all and unconsciously turn to the mindless stupor of scrolling Twitter feeds and ‘liking’ every post on Facebook?
We’ve all been there, only to realize that the chores continue to pile up and life spirals out of control. And when we feel stressed and overwhelmed, our thought patterns become negative and distorted, and well, we flip the lid.
Here’s a 3-step plan that can help. It’s something you engage in every little while because just as our closets and cabinets needs a spring-clean every so often, so do our lives.
Identify what’s important
Sounds easy, but can be difficult for those of us who have low self-worth. We take on other people’s needs and demands, we’re unable to set boundaries and say ‘no’, and we do not delegate for fear of letting people down. This all stems from feelings of unlovability and an underlying fear of rejection.
An exercise that can help is to think of your life 10 years from now. What will you be doing? Who will you be with? What passions will you be pursuing? Looing ahead at life gets you past the noise of the fear center and connects you to what you truly value in life. As you get clear on your future life, think of all the things you’re doing right now that don’t fit in. Which ones can you let go of? Which ones can you delegate, or seek help for?
Once you have a smaller list of things you need to do – either because it’s a passion or a responsibility, think of how you can cluster them together in small groups. Balancing life is about integrating life. It’s about taking one aspect of who we are, and including it in others. For me, it means making laundry day a family event – and with 4 children, it sometimes feels like too many cooks… But we take turns ironing and folding, and in separating the clothes, transferring them from washer to dryer, detergent, softener and all, life begins to happen. The children talk, we connect, and so much comes up.
Where can you bring integration in your life? Can you do groceries with your teenage daughter? Can you clean the house as a family activity and then go out for a treat later? Can you leave work on time and bring home whatever still needs to get done, so you attend to it once the kids are tucked in bed, and you and hubby are sipping coffee at the kitchen table?
Let go of perfection
Now to the messiness of reality! And if you’re like me, and most of my clients, this is where it gets tricky. When we make plans, we have these ideal images in our mind of how perfect everything will be. Flipping pancakes on the weekend as clean and clothed children set the table and chop up the fruit. Talking to smiling teenagers who listen intently and nod with your every word. No wonder we give up!
When I’m in that laundry room with the kids, there’s a lot of complaining and unfolded clothes. Things don’t always go in the right piles and the ironing can leave much to be desired. And yes, I’ve often thought how much faster it would be to just get them out of their misery and do it all myself.
But then I won’t find the time to listen to them, to enter their lives, to help them connect to their inner worlds, to teach them responsibility. It’s a tradeoff – but when you connect to what you really want, and stay guided by your values, it gets way easier.
We juggle multiple roles, especially as women. As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. And the only way to enjoy them all, and feel alive while doing them, is to choose consciously, cluster strategically and then let life happen.